• City must win at Newcastle – 'a very difficult place to go'
• Danny Welbeck and Jonny Evans to miss Swansea game
Sir Alex Ferguson admits Newcastle United hold the key to Manchester United's hopes of winning the Premier League.
United need Manchester City, who lead the championship on goal difference with two games remaining, to slip up in the early kick-off at St James' Park on Sunday to boost their chances of retaining their crown. United host Swansea City later on Sunday before next weekend's final round of matches which see Roberto Mancini's men play Queens Park Rangers at the Etihad Stadium and the champions complete their season at Sunderland.
Asked if the title race was over if City beat Newcastle, Ferguson said: "Yes. Yes, it looks like it. That's [Newcastle] a tough game, there's no question about that."
City lead United by a goal difference of eight after United's lead was erased by their 4-4 draw with Everton and City winning the Manchester derby 1-0. Despite this Mancini still says United are favourites. "What do you think?" Ferguson said. "They've got two games left. If they win the two games they've won the league."
If it is City's to lose, does this bring a different pressure for them to handle? "They have got to win at Newcastle, that's the challenge for them," Ferguson said. "Newcastle, as we know, is a very difficult place to go to and they're playing well. They lost incredibly to Wigan by four goals and then galvanised themselves to go and win 2-0 at Chelsea [on Wednesday]. As everyone knows, winning at Chelsea is a very difficult job. We hadn't done it for eight years so their form is good and it will not be an easy game."
"Everton had something to play for when they came to us after losing to Liverpool after a really poor performance [in the FA Cup semi-final], and they want to finish above Liverpool in the league. Newcastle are fighting for that position in the top four and have a chance. They are a point behind Arsenal and have the same number of points as Tottenham with two games left."
Mancini has claimed that United's last two games are easy. Was this disrespectful? "I don't think you get easy games," the Scot said. "If you are going to Sunderland on the last day of the season [as United are] you are thinking with the support they have got up there and the manager they have got, you don't expect an easy game. [And] the way Swansea have played this season has been admirable. He [Brendan Rodgers] has stuck by his principles and they've had a fantastic season. When you talk about how you pick your manager of the year, you have to take into consideration the resources you have. Brendan Rodgers came up through the Championship and he's been rewarded with fantastic performances. He and Paul Lambert [Norwich City manager] have both done fantastic."
Against Swansea, Ferguson will be without Danny Welbeck and Jonny Evans who each have foot injuries. "Evans is still injured. He's improving a little bit but I don't think he'll make Sunday. Danny Welbeck is out, but hopefully he'll be ready for the Sunderland game."Ferguson said his players are now over the derby defeat. "We're all prepared in that we've got over the disappointment of Monday night which has put us on the back foot now," he said. "But we can only do what we can do and hopefully win our game on Sunday."
Ferguson does not think United can overcome City's goal difference. "It depends on how many they win by, City, doesn't it? Say they win 3-0 that would give them a goal difference over us of eleven. I think it's impossible, isn't it?"
Regarding Roy Hodgson's appointment as England manager Ferguson added: "The surprise for me was that for the first time I can remember the FA didn't bend to the press. The press had their own view of Harry [Redknapp, as a candidate] and I think we all supported that. But normally the FA bend to the press. Roy, as everyone has pointed out, has fantastic experience, he's a good man and has the right profile in many respects for the job.
"I've always said for that England manager's job you need to be in your 60s without doubt. You need to be going into that job with all the experience behind you in the sense do you really need club football at that age when you could be managing the national team. I always said Jock Stein was the perfect age for managing Scotland. He had all that experience of Celtic behind him and Roy's got all that experience behind him.
"I hope he does well. He'll obviously need luck in terms of dealing with the press because that's really important in that job, everyone will want a cut of him. If he tries to favour one against the other he'll be slaughtered so he has to find a way of accommodating all the press as one person."